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Grandfather clocks evolved with the development of the pendulum clock in the 17th century. Innovative clockmakers lengthened pendulums in order to create a more reliable timekeeping device, and a case was needed to protect the pendulum and weights for domestic clocks. This inconvenience was solved by creating the longcase style of clock, more commonly known as the grandfather clock.
By the mid-18th century, American clockmakers began making tall-case clocks by hand. Due to the heavy tax on brass and other clockmaking materials shipped from abroad, the colonial grandfather clock was made mostly of wood, including its movements.
Originally producing chiming wall and mantel clocks, Howard Miller began manufacturing grandfather clocks in the '60s including the colonial-style Barwick grandfather clock. Tempus Fugit grandfather clocks are often assumed to be a brand name, but many clockmakers and watchmakers through history have inscribed the Latin phrase that translates to "time flies" on the dial of a clock. Though often applied to Ridgeway or Howard Miller clocks, the term can apply to any clock bearing the words. Modern grandfather clocks from Tiffany and Swedish Mora Gustavian spice up design collections with their contemporary edginess.
A mid-18th century Northern European marquetry and walnut longcase clock sold for $9,999 at Bonhams in 2004
A William III walnut striking longcase made by Thomas Tompion around 1699 realized a price of $181,519 at an auction by Christie’s London in 2012
A Philadelphia Chippendale carved walnut tall-case clock with a dial signed by Edward Duffield and a case attributed to Nicholas Bernard and Martin Jugiez realized a price of $386,500 at a Christie’s New York auction in 2010